ARKANSAS CITY, Kan. – Conditional class-action status has been granted by a federal judge to a lawsuit filed on behalf of an estimated 700 workers at Creekstone Farms’ Premium Beef processing facility in Arkansas City, Kan. The judge’s Feb. 6 ruling includes all hourly production employees involved in ``gang time'' compensation practices at the plant during the last three years. The practice pays employees only when product is moving, plus 10 minutes for putting on and removing protective gear.
Facility workers allege the company hasn't been paying employees for all time worked. However, Creekstone insists it has paid employees for all time they have worked – including overtime.
“Creekstone’s response is completely accurate,” Creekstone’s attorney Alan Rupe of Kutak Rock LLC, who is based in Wichita, Kan., told MEATPOULTRY.com. “Creekstone pays for donning and doffing and all time worked. If someone works overtime, they pay [him or her] according to law. From beginning to end, they’re paid for all they do.”
The certification of a class in Fair Labor Standards Act collective action does not require much of the plaintiffs who are suing, Rupe explained. “They just have to demonstrate they were all treated similarly. Creekstone’s position has been that they all have been treated similarly because the company pays them according to the law,” he said. “And the determination of whether it’s a class or not does not depend on the merits of the claim...it only depends on what they allege. So, based on their allegations they were all treated alike, the court has granted them class certification and explained it basically in those terms. The court is not addressing the merits, it’s simply taking their word they were all treated alike. Creekstone’s response is they were all paid according to the law, they certainly were treated alike.”
Creekstone was ordered by the judge to give the plaintiffs the names and contact information for each member of the class-action suit and to post notice of the lawsuit in both English and Spanish at its Arkansas City plant.